Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and his Legacy, 1860-1960, is curated by Morris biographer Fiona MacCarthy, and will look at the designer’s work, politics and philosophy.
It will aim to draw a line from the late-Victorian ‘art for the people’ movement initiated by Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, through Arts and Crafts practitioners such as Gill and Edward Carpenter, to the Garden City movement and post-war British designers such as Conran and Abram Games.
MacCarthy says, ‘Now in the 21st century our art and design culture is widespread. But its global sophistication brings new anxieties.
‘We find ourselves returning to many of Morris’s preoccupations with craft skills and the environment, with local sourcing, with vernacular traditions, with art as a vital force within society, binding together people of varying backgrounds and nationalities.’
She adds, ‘The exhibition, as I see it, will not only explore what William Morris’s vision was but will suggest ways in which his radical thinking still affects the way we live our lives.’
Key exhibits in the exhibition will include Morris’s handwritten Socialist Diary from the British Library and his gold-tooled hand-bound copy of Karl Marx’s Le Capital.
Also on show will be CR Ashbee’s Peacock Brooch, Eric Gill’s erotic garden roller Adam and Eve and Edward Carpenter’s sandals, which apparently sparked a sandal-wearing craze among Britain’s left-leaning intelligentsia.
Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and his Legacy, 1860-1960 is at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H, from 16 October 2014-11 January 2015.